Taking Care of Business

Say you're on the board of directors of a corporation. What do you do if the CEO of the company -- a great executive leader who has made the company very profitable -- is caught in adultery? Do you overlook the indiscretion, do you fire him on the spot, or do you come down on some middle ground? That was the case study posed by Dr. Scott Rae at the beginning of his session at our BreakPoint conference on "Christians in the Marketplace" in Colorado Springs. Dr. Rae is associate professor of biblical studies and Christian ethics at Talbot Seminary, Biola University. He has focused much of his career on medical ethics and business ethics. Dr. Rae argues that ethical decisions in the business world and in all of life must be made with an eye on virtue. After all, highly educated individuals who knew right from wrong caused the infamous ethical scandals last year. They simply chose to do wrong. There was no lapse of knowledge -- there was a lapse of virtue. And, he argues, capitalism depends on virtue, for without trust, honesty, and cooperation, the entire free-market system falls apart. Rae says, " . . . the founders of our nation believed that the democratic experiment would work only if the citizens are virtuous. Contrary to popular belief, total liberty was never their intent. Rather, their vision was one of 'ordered' or 'restrained' liberty, that is, freedom tempered by morals and character . . . Since business in a free-enterprise system is a cornerstone of democracy, we should all be worried about the future of the free-market economy [and democracy itself] if virtue isn't once again taken seriously in the public dialogue about morality." He goes on to list three theological norms for business ethics: holiness, justice, and love. First, holiness in business ethics refers to someone who is set apart from the surrounding culture or environment. That doesn't mean leaving the business world, but rather standing against its corrupt values. Second, justice is the mark of a person who meets the standards set by God's character and who is innocent of intentional wrongdoing. And third is love -- a virtue not often associated with business -- but it has to do with relationships. Without love, relationships with employees, company leaders, suppliers, customers, and shareholders become strained and break down. Christians understand this better than most in our relativistic society, which is why we talk about this on BreakPoint. Our goal is to help you think biblically about all of life and to equip you to share these truths with the people around you -- across the dinner table, over the backyard fence, and standing beside the water cooler at work. Scott Rae's presentation, along with all of the other lectures delivered at the "Christians in the Marketplace" conference, is just the kind of resource that will enable you to do that. And it's available from our BreakPoint resource center. Give us a call please (1-877-322-5527), or order online. A Christian worldview based on truth and virtue is vital to our society and culture, and nowhere is that more true than in the marketplace. Our free democracy, in fact, depends on it. Oh, yes, for that CEO caught in adultery, Scott Rae concludes and I agree, that adultery on the job robs him of his moral authority. He should go. Had we applied that standard of virtue maybe we would have avoided the Enrons and Global Crossings. For further reading and information: Jonathan D. Salant, "Survey: Businesses Believe in Ethics," Austin American-Statesman, 14 July 2003. Christian Ethics for Business: Norms and Benchmarks by Scott Rae is valuable reading for business employees and business students alike. It includes questions for discussion. (Taken from Dr. Rae's book, Beyond Integrity). Scott Rae and Kenman L. Wong, Beyond Integrity: A Judeo-Christian Approach to Business Ethics(Zondervan, 1996, to be updated soon). "Taking Care of Business" -- In this "BreakPoint This Week" special broadcast, Managing Editor Jim Tonkowich speaks with Wilberforce Forum Fellow Scott Rae, associate professor of biblical studies and Christian ethics at Talbot Theological Seminary at Biola University in California. Also included on this CD is a talk Dr. Rae gave at the recent BreakPoint conference held in Colorado Springs, April 4-6, 2003, "Christians in the Marketplace." BreakPoint Commentary No. 020415, "Sharks, Stools, and Secularism: Can We Prevent Another Enron?" (Archived commentary; free registration required.) BreakPoint Commentary No. 020708, "Cooking the Books: The Accounting Scandal in Corporate America." (Archived commentary; free registration required.) "Christians in the Marketplace," a Christian Mind in the New Millennium III conference, took place April 4-6, 2003, at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort and Conference Center in Colorado Springs, CO. At this BreakPoint worldview conference, speakers discussed the role of Christian worldview in today's business sector and marketplace, how businesses should apply ethical standards to their practices, and how our work should be viewed as a calling-an opportunity to serve God in our business. (An audiocassette set is also available.) Roberto Rivera, "Coming Clean: Honesty and the Rules of the Marketplace," BreakPoint Online, 20 June 2002. John Fischer, "The Corking of America: Why We Don't Trust Each Other," BreakPoint Online, 17 June 2003. Kelley Reep, "It's Not Whether You Win or Lose," BreakPoint Online, 3 June 2003. Marcia Segelstein, "Tolerating Obedience," BreakPoint Online, 10 April 2003.


Chuck Colson


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